ACE Your Firefighter Exam With These 7 Preparation Tips

 Fighting fires isn’t just about putting out the fire. There are many steps to complete before considering this job, including taking the firefighter’s written exam.  

Do you want to ace the firefighter’s written exam? Taking the written firefighter’s exam is the first step in the hiring process and isn’t always easy to pass. This exam tests your ability in academics and how you think and reasonThe following preparation tips will help you to score well on the written exam: 

ACE Your Firefighter Exam With These 7 Preparation Tips

  1. Know Your Department’s Test 
  2. Look at the Department’s Test-taking Rules 
  3. Take Multiple Practice Tests 
  4. Study Tips 
  5. Know What is Tested 
  6. Talk to Current Firefighters 
  7. Keep a Test Journal 

Have you taken the firefighter’s written exam numerous times and can’t quite seem to score high enough to move on in the hiring process? Or are you just starting to look at a career as a firefighter? You’re not alone. Many future firefighters are in the same boat and need the boost of extra practice to make it past the written exam. These seven tips will not only help you prepare but will help you ace the test and move on to the next step! 

Know Your Department’s Test 

The exact exam you take will depend on the state, region, or city you’re located in. The first thing you should do is call your local department and ask about the written test and other applicable considerations. Some things to keep in mind: 

  1. Smaller departments and municipalities might not have a set test, though you may still have to take a general civil service exam. 
  2. Mid-size towns and cities usually write their own tests. The same general areas will be tested but aren’t standard from town to town. 
  3. Larger city and municipal areas may have a more standard test they share. These tests might be longer and more difficult overall considering they have more candidates they need to review. 
  4. Are you an EMT or Paramedic? Know what other departmental tests will be required for these jobs.

The point is, to be able to score well, you need more information. Familiarizing yourself with your possible future place of employment is always a positive step in the right direction.  

Test-Taking Rules and General Advice 

This is as important possibly as taking the actual test. Before even entering the testing facility, know what is expected of you. Here are some written and unwritten rules for taking the firefighter’s exam: 

  1. Check on whether or not you can have a calculator and scratch paper. This may affect how you prepare for the math portion of the test. 
  2. Know what you can have with you in the testing area.  
  3. Know where you’re testing and arrive early. You never know how many other people will be testing on the same day. 
  4. Park in long-term parking if this is applicable. You never know how long it will take before and after the test.  Ease your parking worries. 
  5. Even things like bathroom use are regulated. Check on what the rules are beforehand. 
  6. Even if you have studied, read all directions carefully and concisely, fill out any informational forms completely and neatly. Remember, everything will give fire chiefs and hiring committees a possible impression of you as a person. 
  7. Turn off your cell phone. Even if it is not required, turn it completely off (the majority of departments will require this). It is a distraction you don’t need, anyway. 
  8. Never leave any test item blank. You won’t get penalized for guessing, but you will for not answering a question. Make an educated guess. 
  9. Start with your strengths and complete the easiest for your questions first. The firefighter exam is timed, so answering these first will leave more time for the subjects or items you struggle with. 
  10. Make sure you have all the required materials ready the night before. You don’t want to show up unprepared. 

These may not have anything to do directly with actual test questions but your ability or inability to do them could lead to future success or failure within the department. 

Practice Test 

ACE Your Firefighter Exam With These 7 Preparation Tips

Before setting up a study schedule, taking a practice test is key. I’ve also seen the advice to take as many tests for other departments as possible for practice. I think this is solid advice if possible, but one of the first steps in the hiring process for most departments is an application, so this might not be feasible. The following resources offer practice tests for the firefighter written exam: 

  1. This site is a paid site but boasts online practice tests with explanations for every question. 
  2. This site has practice math questions and behavioral scenarios. 
  3. This is multiple types of questions to practice and review. 
  4. This will give you questions and practice for the math and reading comprehension portions of the test. 
  5. This is a paid site but boasts a pass or money-back guarantee. 

Taking a practice test will help you map out what you will need to study and where your strengths and weaknesses lay. Remember, most tests will be graded on a curve, so if you don’t score high enough to make the cut, you’ll have to take the test again at a later date. 

How to Study for the Firefighter Exam 

There are many resources out there to aid in your study of the firefighter’s exam.  It’s important to start reviewing and studying early. These other study tips will also help guide you so you feel prepared: 

  1. Create a study plan. Though this seems like a step you could skip, don’t do it. Find out the date of your test and start early, cramming will not help on this test. I like using Google Calendars to help carve out time each day to review the different parts of the test. 
  2. Ask the department where you’re applying if they have a study guide. Get to know that study guide front to back. Some departments will use 10-25% of the study guide questions on their exam. 
  3. Start with your weakest subject first. After you take the practice test, take the areas you most need to study and start there. Books like Norman Hall’s Firefighter Exam Preparation Book and Barron’s Test Prep can give you a boost in those areas where you struggle. 
  4. Brush up on multiple-choice test-taking strategies. Yes, there is a way to take multiple-choice tests. For example, cross out the least likely answer choices to narrow down your options.  
  5. Manage your time wisely. Don’t get into the mindset that you don’t need to study. You’ll need a high score to do well on this test. 

Know What Will Be Tested 

Though fire departments won’t have the same exact test, they will usually test in similar areas. Lately, in bigger departments, they’ve been focusing on personality and behavior tests as well as the more common reading, math, and reasoning. The areas you’ll most likely see on the Firefighter’s exam will be: 

  1. Reading Comprehension. You’ll have to read passages and interpret accurately what you have read. A good video with a strategy can be found at Then find other passages in your study materials and apply this to those passages for further practice. 
  2. Verbal Expression. There will also be a grammar, spelling, and punctuation test. This video is long but gives you good tips on how to pass this portion of the exam and also more information on the Reading Comprehension section of the test: 
  3. Observation and Memory. This section of the test will show you blueprints, maps, and passages where you’ll have to recall information from memory. A small example of a snippet can be found here 
  4. Spatial Orientation. You’ll be able to use maps and diagrams in this section to help you answer navigation questions. An example can be found here 
  5. Reasoning and Judgment. There will be scenarios or lists and the questions will be based on your ability to use logical reasoning to make judgment calls for situations. An example can be found here 
  6. Mathematics. Math like conversions, fractions, decimals, proportions, and word problems can be found on the firefighter exam. A series of math practice videos specifically for the firefighter exam can be found here created by FirefighterNow: 
  7. Mechanical Aptitude. This is lever and pulleys and how they all work together. A practice video can be found here 
  8. General. Here is a general overview of other information you may need to pass the test 

Know the department you’re testing for and the individual requirements they have. Each department is unique and may ask different questions. Some have wildland-urban interface needs which will look different on their firefighter exam. Others may use video-based questioning to ask human relationship questions and how you would react to certain scenarios. The best strategy is to be prepared for anything! 

Want to know how to become a firefighter? Check out this step-by-step guide:

Talk to Current Firefighters 

This may seem like a no-brainer but is so important. Talk to current firefighters in the department where you’re applying or even in other departments. Ask them questions, get an idea of what it will be like to be a firefighter, and what they found difficult about the test. Here are some things you might ask: 

  1. What did you find most difficult on the firefighter exam? 
  2. What are some things I should study? 
  3. Are there study materials that were more useful than others? 
  4. What’s your biggest piece of advice on the test? 

You could be on a fire with some of these people someday, make a good impression, and let them know you’re preparing for the test. These will be some valuable conversations as they have already taken and passed the test. Reach out to veterans in the profession for advice and what worked best for them. 

ACE Your Firefighter Exam With These 7 Preparation Tips

Keep a Test Journal 

There is no doubt the Firefighter Exam is rigorous. On the off-chance you don’t make it through this particular hurdle of the hiring process, there is always one last strategy you can use. Though you may not be able to write down test items while in the testing area, many firefighters have kept test journals of questions they found particularly difficult—just in case. A bonus to this strategy is that it works on memory and observation skills as well! The following is the strategy they have used: 

  1. Remember the questions that gave you pause. 
  2. As soon as you leave the testing facility, go to your car and start writing them in a testing journal. 
  3. Study the answers to these questions before the next test. 
  4. Do this with as many tests as you take (some people may opt to apply and take as many firefighter exams as possible). 
  5. Review as needed. 

This strategy is legitimate as long as you’re using it for your own purposes and not sharing questions. Hopefully, you will not need it due to the fact you’ll pass on the first try! 

Interested in a military career? Check this out:

Related Questions 

What is the typical hiring process to become a firefighter? 

 It is a rigorous process to become a firefighter. You may be asked to complete the following before being considered: 

  1. Apply and Send Resume 
  2. Application Review 
  3. Written Exam 
  4. Physical Ability Test 
  5. Oral Interview 
  6. Medical Exam 
  7. Psychological Examination 

Is there a personality test on the firefighter exam? 

Yes, there is. They ask a series of questions that you answer honestly and sincerely based on a scale. They then compare your answers to current successful firefighters and see where you stand. 

Are there separate tests for paramedics and EMTs? 

In most paid fire departments you will need to pass your National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam within a year of becoming a firefighter. Most calls to a department have a need for medical response. 


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To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.